A biblical, existential meditation on self-revelation
A man wrestled with Jacob until daybreak. When he did not prevail against Jacob, he struck him, putting Jacob’s hip out of joint, then, saying, “Let me go, for the day is breaking.” But Jacob said, “I will not let you go, unless you bless me”…The man said, “You shall no longer be called Jacob, but Israel, for you have striven with God and with humans, and have prevailed” (Genesis 32.24b-26, 28).
For now, we see in a mirror, dimly, but then we will see face to face. Now I know only in part; then I will know fully, even as I have been fully known (1 Corinthians 13.12).
Through the night, we wrestled. Had it been but sport, I would have enjoyed our encounter and, after a time, retired. Yet, in the vigor and rigor of our contest, I knew there was more than a game, but life at stake. Hence, I held you fast, though your name I knew not.
Then, when dawn came, you would take wingéd flight, but not before blessing me.
You called me “Paulus”, meaning “small”, you said. Thereby, granting new meaning to my name as one, who, by necessity of nature, seeks union with the great God.
E’en more, you branded my brokenness in a way of truth that I, unable to deny, perforce had to claim and, therefore, laying bare the path forward toward my wholeness. Such that I met and knew myself, aye, my self again for the first time.
© 2021 PRA
Illustration: Jacob wrestling with the angel, Luca Giordano (1634-1705)
#beingandbecoming #seeingmyselfagainforthefirsttime #selfacceptance #namingandclaimingmybrokenness #selfrevelation #spiritualandexistentialrevelation
4 thoughts on “Wrestling…”
This is one of my favorite passages of scripture, Paul, because it is such an archetypal human story. I have been fascinated with it since I was a child, but I never felt its deep impact until I walked into a mundane administrative section of a large Lutheran church here in Minneapolis and came face to face with a Paul Granlund sculpture (he was probably Minnesota’s most renowned and prolific sculptor) based on it.
I have tried to find a picture of that particular piece, but I haven’t been successful. Granlund did, however, sculpt the scene a number of times, and here is a link to a picture of one of them that is very similar to the one I saw that day.
When I first encountered the piece, it took me a moment to fully understand I was looking at ONE figure rather than two, but that the struggle was no less violent and monumental for that’s being the case. When the penny finally dropped, I think I audibly gasped. I’m pretty sure that totally unexpected encounter was one of the experiences that changed my life and helped to begin the transformation (perhaps the birth?) of my faith.
I wonder whether in this post you are recounting a specific dream or, more broadly, your experience of wrestling with the angel all through your life. No matter which, I think Granlund’s sculpture offers a take on what it means to wrestle with angels, being changed significantly in some way in the struggle, and demanding blessing. I’d love to hear more about your own wrestling.
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My dear Karen, Granlund’s sculpture is stunning! I had not known of him. I thank you for the introduction.
As for this particular piece, yes, one figure, indeed. For the struggle, the wrestling is, for me, largely internal. The initial title of my poem/prose meditation was “Wrestling with Demons and Angels”, for both abide within me. A reality I recognized some…many years ago (early to mid 1970s) when I began to identify and delve into my shadow side/self/world and came to the understanding (was made to understand for the sake of self and honesty) that there within me dwelled both the angelic and the demonic. In this sense, in regard to your comment — “I wonder whether in this post you are recounting a specific dream or, more broadly, your experience of wrestling with the angel all through your life” — my wrestling has been and is a lifetime/lifelong pursuit. In another sense, I have been dealing with a new cycle of depression. As oft is the case, I am never quite sure what triggered it until time passes, coupled with intense contemplation, followed by writing. “Wrestling…” was/is the fruit of an expression of a stream of consciousness when that which was under the surface of my instant awareness came to the fore. In a word, as I am wont to say, the only person I can escape is myself (although many are the moments I wish I were someone else and there are some moments when I wish I were not). For the daily, moment by moment striving between and among contrary and conflicting inner forces is wearying. Nevertheless, that very wrestling is the path of my salvation, which is to say, being at peace with myself, as the hymn has it, “just as I am without one plea.”
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Karen and Paul,
I had a lot of reading to do today for upcoming presentations and panel discussions, but this blog thread is one of the best things I read today! When I saw the title earlier today I thought about what it might mean and I was definitely on the right track. I guessed correctly because I’m really wrestling with stuff right now too.
This has been a very tough week for me with lots of illnesses in my inner circle and the shocking death of an icon in the security industry who was a mentor to me and hundreds of others. He had survived being kidnapped about six years ago in Nigeria where he was from and freed himself and his wife almost losing his hand in the process trying to wrestle the gun from the kidnapper. They flew him to the US to try to repair the damage to his hand from the gunshot. He even wrote a book about that experience. He was a very physically powerful man too and so his sudden death after just a 2 day wrestling battle with Covid was almost too much for me!!
I’m wrestling with when will it all stop….There are at least 20 major things going on in the world right now and I feel like we can’t even go a few hours without a huge event occurring. So Paul I clearly get what you mean about depression. The sculpture that Karen shared really is stunning… it makes a lot of things more clear for me about internal struggle… are we good enough? are we too much? are we the person we are supposed to be???
I’m glad I saved this piece for the end of my evening because it gives me a lot more to think about.
Love you both!
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Loretta, your response to this post concerning the manifold horrendous happenings in the world and in your life in the illnesses and death of those near and dear to you, as I reflect, help me make more sense of what I was striving to get at in referencing “the path forward toward my wholeness.” For, it occurs to me, that external events, perhaps especially those of difficult circumstances (though, praise God, I exclude not moments of joy that come from something delightful happening in the world around me!) can help me see more clearly who I am via the lens of how I respond to them. As a sage soul has put it: Life is beyond our control, yet we do have some power to shape how we respond to life. It is, I think (or, as your comments lead me to envision), in this power to shape how I respond that leads me toward (or, perhaps, rather is!) “the path toward my wholeness.”
Now, I do not believe my complete wholeness is something I can achieve (at least, not in this life!). Yet knowing or trusting that I’m moving in the right (which is to say, helpful, healthy) direction may be all I can expect.
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